Punk Rock is The Reason

By Jens VSXE

It’s a Saturday night in Jerusalem, the holy city littered with cultural and historical sites. I’ve come here on a kind of holiday, you could say. However I’m not a tourist like the sunglass-wearing Christians crowding the allies of the old city. The nature of my visit is quite different. For the last five weeks my home has been the beautiful city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

Palestine has been one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, but at the same time it has been the scenery for so many atrocities. I’ve seen things and heard things that I never would have imagined in my safe everyday life back home in Sweden. This particular Saturday I’ve come to Jerusalem to blow of some steam. The crowded, smelly basement room is eerily familiar. I feel like I’ve seen most of these people before. Someone flips a switch and distortion fills the air. The drummer picks up a beat and then we set off. I only know bad words in Hebrew so I shout them extra loud when I get the chance. I yell “Spela snabbare!” in between two songs and people look at me like I’m some kind of moron. Maybe I am, who knows? Who cares?

A few hours later we stumble out into the wet streets of Jerusalem. One of us almost gets caught shoplifting cookies and soy milk with chocolate flavour. Sweaty and tired, we make our way to some punk house where we crash on the floor. Punk rock is the reason that I’ve come to this messed up place. I don’t mean that just as a way to unwind from the stress of intense activism in the West Bank but as the foundation that made who I am today.

For me the logical extension of getting off to songs about insurrection, resistance and rebellion has always been – insurrection, resistance and rebellion. Punk rock made me want to never get a job, look like a freak and dedicate my life to fucking with all the assholes who mess up the world we live in. Punk made me want to give up drinking and be a political activist. To me, punk was never a surface where the rebellion was part of the aesthetics but a counter culture where we strive to be young until we die.

That’s why I’m here. With new and old friends from around the world, a surprisingly large percentage of which are punks, I do what I can to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. Standing beside the Palestinian protesters in demonstrations when the army attacks makes the soldiers think twice about using excessive force. We still have to dodge tear gas canisters and sound bombs on a regular basis but without our presence those weapons might be replaced with rubber coated steel bullets or even live ammunition. We sit in their living rooms listening to stories of how their land is being stolen by settlers and we promise to do all we can to tell their stories to the world. We teach English to children in the refugee camps in the hope that they one day will be able to leave their concrete boxes and return to their homes in historic Palestine.

The pissed off naïveté of the punk rock scene is our way to keep the flame burning as our youth slips through our fingers, like razors to the bone. Through a community of dreamers, hellbent on the most creative forms of destruction we can think of, we reenact the hopes that were instilled in us as teenagers. My stay on the western side of the green line is kept brief, however and one tattoo and a plate of hummus later I’m back in the West Bank surrounded by the olive tree covered hills of Palestine. I have families to visit, demonstration to attend, actions to plan, articles to write.

This is one of the many different paths that punk rock could have led me on. It gave the potential to form my own existence in defiance with societal norms, it told me to look for values beyond the spouse and kids and television grave of my bourgeois upbringing. It gave me a life in discontent and I’m loving it.

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